Blogging Roundup: The Press of History

October 14, 2009

gutenberg bibleWe dove into print culture this week by reading Parchment, Printing, and Hypermedia:  Communication in World Order Transformation, Ronald Deibert’s political analysis of the way changing media environments led to redefinitions the self and nation in Early Modern Europe.  Given his focus on the Medieval Catholic Church, it’s not surprising that a number of you used your blogs to grapple with the connection between literacy, religion and power. English 5080, The Book, and Write.Now, for example, all puzzled over medieval investments in the talismanic power of words. V.Weatherspoon takes it a step further, claiming that all words are holy and that “one can save someone’s life with naught but a few kind words.”  Is this true for all times and in all places? Is it technologically specific?  Literary Adventures looks at how the press set up a new understanding of the role of words:  “The new sacred became man’s (or woman’s) private interaction with print.”  (As a side note, many blog readers seemed scandalized that an ostensibly spiritual enterprise sought power at all.  SarahV, however, reminds us the separation of government from religion is a fairly recent ideal, and one not held by much of world.  She points out that even countries like the US that most vigorously promote the concept struggle to fulfill it.)

LitBlogger looks at another form of power, the printed map.  By visually defining “insiders” and “outsiders,” she claims, maps reveal “that what we look at affects how we think about the world around us.”  Two weeks from everywhere also takes on power, here in the form of the capitalist state, and provides a useful (to my mind) critique of Deibert’s faux neutrality, which conveniently overlooks how the systemizing of state bureaucracies consolidated class systems leading to what he calls the “common people.” Linking back to mapping, he vividly calls our attention to those “fighting, being maimed, and dying in all of these wars, to protect these borders, and all of these ‘imagined communities’ that all of this printing has helped to proliferate and strengthen.”  Might we leap then from the printed text  to the text message? Expressions and Newbie Blogger similarly worry how today’s technologies negatively impact our social relations in terms of class privilege (who owns what new gadget).  Jewelianne, though, sees the press and new media forms such as blogs more positively, believing they allow new ideas and opinions to “vie for attention,” a process crucial to Democracy and the broader distribution of cultural power.

How does power move through culture?  Another interesting topic the readings engendered was on the constructed nature of “truth” itself, and its relation to the symbolic/representational function of writing. Possible use of Word-a-Day calendar within muses on this problematic, and comes up with one of my favorite quotes this week: “Social epistemology works within culture following Gumpian logic: True is as true does.”

Literate Landfill, though, wins the class blogosphere award for seeing (and imitating!) the absurdity of it all.  His post is a must-read!


One comment

  1. Dearest Professor,

    I just wanted to say that YOU have a talent for summary, itemizing, organizing, and story-telling; taking all those blogs and all that information and presenting it in a concise and logical way, not unlike the editorial column of a prestigious magazine (not trash like People or Entertainment Weekly).

    Not only that, it reads very smoothly and is quite enjoyable! I’m looking forward to reading your prose, because if I’m not mistaken, do we not have something you have authored as part of our readings in a few weeks?


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